Travis Etienne's rookie season is over before it even started. He’s out for the year with a Lisfranc foot injury. The Jaguars are placing him on injured reserve.
This kind of thing happens more than you would think – a lot more. In the last 20 years, 93 running backs have been chosen in either the first or second round. Ten of those running backs didn’t play at all in the regular season of their rookie year.
You’ve all seen the names go by over the years. Derrius Guice, Ben Tate, Ryan Williams, Mikel Leshoure, Montario Hardesty, Eric Shelton.
The Bengals have been the kings of this misfortune, with Ki-Jana Carter in the ‘90s and Kenny Irons in 2007. In 2005, they drafted Chris Perry and he gave them only 2 regular-season carries.
The Jaguars at least have plenty of other running backs. Both James Robinson and Carlos Hyde have gone over 1,000 yards at the NFL level. And truth be told, Etienne in his brief preseason playing time didn’t look like a guy who was going to make a big impact. My guess is that they won’t miss him all that much (but we won’t have the opportunity to say for sure).
In my eyes, Robinson moves up some on draft boards (moving ahead of guys like Mike Davis and Damien Harris). And Hyde might now be an above-average backup running back.
Etienne will hit the rehab and come back in 2022. Out of curiosity, I ran a check on the many other running backs who haven’t played much in their rookie season. And on this one, I used not only the 10 who didn’t play at all, but seven others who didn’t have 20 carries in their first year. Only five of these players ever finished with a top-20 fantasy season (that’s among running backs, and using PPR scoring).
On the chart below, you’re seeing these 17 running backs, along with the numbers from their best season. The five who cracked the top 20 have black dots in front of their names.
Note that McGahee is listed with Buffalo (the team that drafted him) but his best season came when he was playing for the Ravens in 2007. Similarly, Christine Michael was drafted by the Seahawks but played for two teams in 2016.
|LIGHTLY USED ROOKIE RUNNING BACKS (best seasons)|
|2001||Trung Canidate, St.L.||441||154||6||112.5||39|
|2003||• Deuce McAllister, N.O.||1641||516||8||332.7||5|
|2005||DeShaun Foster, Car.||879||372||3||177.1||22|
|2005||Chris Perry, Cin.||279||328||2||123.7||34|
|2006||Eric Shelton, Car.||23||6||0||3.9||142|
|2007||• Willis McGahee, Buff.||1207||231||8||234.8||9|
|2007||Kenny Irons, Cin.||0||0||0||.0||--|
|2010||• Rashard Mendenhall, Pitt.||1273||167||13||245.0||11|
|2011||Montario Hardesty, Cle.||266||122||0||52.8||74|
|2012||• Mikel Leshoure, Det.||798||214||9||189.2||18|
|2012||Ryan Williams, Ariz.||164||44||0||27.8||101|
|2013||Ben Tate, Hou.||771||140||4||149.1||30|
|2013||Isaiah Pead, St.L.||21||78||0||22.9||108|
|2014||• Shane Vereen, N.E.||391||447||5||165.8||20|
|2016||Christine Michael, Sea.||583||107||8||139.0||35|
|2019||Derrius Guice, Was.||245||79||3||57.4||69|
|2021||Travis Etienne, Jac.||?||?||?||?||?|